Hawthorn v Collingwood, MCG, 5.50pm
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was aghast at how poor his side was against North Melbourne, six days after he spoke out at how inept it performed in a narrow win over the Western Bulldogs. His public dismay and the fallout from last round ensures this match is a must-watch.
Hawthorn are out of the finals conversation, but were gallant against West Coast last weekend and will be boosted by the return of captain Ben Stratton, who has served his two weeks for pinching and could well find himself standing Jordan De Goey.
The vision of Collingwood players not committing 100 per cent to several contests against the Kangaroos will no doubt have been shown on more than one occasion in reviews this week by Buckley. There is no denying there will be a response from the Magpies. How significant that response is however, is the great unknown.
VERDICT: Collingwood by 16 points
Essendon v Sydney, MCG, 11.45am
Essendon proved, not for the first time this season, that their best is good enough to compete with the better sides in the competition when they upstaged Greater Western Sydney last Thursday night.
The spirited display, finished in the face of adversity, lifted them to the brink of the top eight courtesy of other results and eased the pressure on coach John Worsfold. Buf if they are to take another step towards September, it will have to be without No.1 ruckman Tom Bellchambers (Achilles).
Likewise, Sydney will be pinch-hitting in the ruck after Callum Sinclair (dislocated shoulder) was injured in the win over Gold Coast. The Swans are making a move also, but they are wounded in areas which could be exposed.
VERDICT: Essendon by 18 points
Gold Coast v Richmond, Metricon Stadium, 12.10pm
Tom Lynch returns “home” when he encounters his former Gold Coast teammates for the first time since opting out and nominating Richmond as his club of choice. The Tigers spearhead hasn’t set the world alight in 2019, but has filled an important role in attack nonetheless.
How the Suns would desperately love him patrolling their forward line. The reluctance from Suns coach Stuart Dew to take games on and attack through the corridor to give the forwards an opportunity to kick goals is hindering his side’s chances.
Richmond were able to shake off a determined St Kilda late last Sunday, but they may not have been in a position to do so had Sydney Stack not influenced the contest early on. He gets another opportunity here to stake a claim for AFL Rising Star honours.
VERDICT: Richmond by 29 points
Adelaide v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, 2.35pm
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley puffed his chest out after the Power upset Geelong in round 14. Deservedly so. However, he was crestfallen last weekend when his players failed to back that up and succumbed to the lowly Western Bulldogs.
The result jeopardised Port’s finals participation ahead of a contest with bitter rivals Adelaide. The Crows were outclassed in the end by Geelong at GMHBA Stadium and coach Don Pyke will relish returning to familiar surrounds, with the prospect of some key inclusions, notably Wayne Milera.
Adelaide will turn to Daniel Talia to subdue big Charlie Dixon and if the rebound and crumbing ability of the Crows’ defenders is at its usual high standard, it is difficult to see how the Port forward line musters a winning total.
VERDICT: Adelaide by 20 points
Western Bulldogs v Geelong, Marvel Stadium, 5.25pm
The Western Bulldogs have been crying out for a presence in attack for some time now. WA’s Aaron Naughton has shown his capabilities on more than one occasion and it was telling last weekend in the win over Port Adelaide how influential Josh Schache was.
If these two young key position prospects are able to flourish in the back half of 2019, the Bulldogs become a completely different beast. Indeed, the presence of the pair will no doubt have been talked about by Geelong coach Chris Scott and his assistants in the lead-up to this match.
Likewise, the dominance of the Cats and their midfield, headed by WA sensation Tim Kelly, will have consumed much of the Bulldogs’ match committee’s thinking. Geelong are hurtling towards the minor premiership, with their efficiency and class on all lines undeniable.
VERDICT: Geelong by 23 points
Fremantle v West Coast, Optus Stadium, 6.10pm
A finals berth that looked in Fremantle’s keeping a fortnight ago is now up for grabs. Losses to Melbourne and Carlton could prove decisive at the end of the home-and-away campaign, although an upset result here could turn things on their head.
West Coast scraped past Hawthorn, a result that took on extra importance given the defeats of Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood. Importantly also, Nic Naitanui successfully negotiated his high-profile comeback and should bounce off that here.
The loss of Alex Pearce in defence is being felt by Fremantle and could well be exposed by the Eagles, who received five goals from Jack Darling last weekend. An attack featuring Darling, Josh Kennedy, Liam Ryan, Jamie Cripps and Willie Rioli is a daunting proposition.
VERDICT: West Coast by 25 points
Glendinning-Allan Medal: Shannon Hurn
Carlton v Melbourne, MCG, 11.10am
Carlton’s resurgence under interim coach David Teague continued in stunning fashion last weekend when they upset Fremantle in Perth. The victory happened with veterans Marc Murphy and Ed Curnow being placed around the ball at the appropriate times.
They will again need to be influential if co-captain Patrick Cripps is missing for another week with a foot injury. The Demons’ midfield is solid enough thanks to Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney and Nathan Jones, but the inability of the forward line to function smoothly is detrimental.
Carlton will be unable to call on either Charlie Curnow (knee) and Harry McKay (groin) this week, making their task of kicking a sizeable total difficult.
VERDICT: Melbourne by 13 points
North Melbourne v St Kilda, Blundstone Arena, 1.20pm
North Melbourne are unrecognisable from the side that meandered through the first half of the season under Brad Scott. Rhyce Shaw has reinvigorated the playing group and hardened it up. Their mauling of Collingwood was felt right throughout the competition.
The uncompromising approach can be infectious through the side and if the Kangaroos back that up and handle St Kilda here, Shaw and the club may well move a step closer towards a long-term union.
St Kilda were better for longer against Richmond, but still came up short when it mattered most. Alan Richardson is in a fight for his life at the helm of the Saints and knows his charges will need to take every opportunity that presents.
VERDICT: North Melbourne by 28 points
GWS v Brisbane, Giants Stadium, 2.40pm
Are Greater Western Sydney going to climb the summit most of us expected was a fait accompli? There are increasing doubts, thanks to the latest slip-up, a defeat at the hands of Essendon despite leading by more than three goals in the final quarter.
Remarkably, Brisbane can move ahead of GWS if they buck a recent trend in encounters between the two sides and cause an upset. The Lions are clearly trending in the right direction, with the five-goal burst from Eric Hipwood critical in the win over Melbourne.
Ball magnets Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Neale are enjoying outstanding seasons and how influential they are will have a large bearing on the outcome.
VERDICT: GWS by 21 pointsMarket Market